DMV reimburses man for tow after identity mix-up

BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) – Robert Johnson was just a few blocks from home when he was pulled over by a Bristol police officer.

“I said, ‘I don’t know what I possibly could have done.'” he recalled. “He said, ‘did you know you’re driving on a suspended registration?'”

Police towed Johnson’s car and issued a summons to appear in court.

Johnson knew it was all a mix-up. He’s been down this road before.

In fact, it all started 12 years ago when he moved to Rhode Island and went to the DMV for the first time.

“[A DMV employee] said, ‘what’s happened here is you happen to share a first name and a last name and a date of birth, down to the year, with somebody that has a long criminal record, and he’s got some outstanding arrest warrants on his record. He’s got multiple violations against his license,'” Johnson said.

“I’ve been fighting this for 12-plus years,” he added. “It got a lot worse two months ago, and it’s gotten ridiculously bad now.”

Johnson said the change for the worse happened when the DMV upgraded its 40-year-old computer system.

Johnson’s case was escalated to DMV Assistant Administrator Chuck Hollis.

“[Hollis] said, ‘it’s the state computer system. Any time anything happens with this other person, it automatically assigns it to your record.'”

But the DMV didn’t have a solution.

“Somebody at the state level should be able to fix this!” Johnson said.

“I want to know that the court case is going to be taken care of,” he continued. “I want to know that I’ll be reimbursed, and third and most importantly, I need someone to work with me to ensure this isn’t going to keep happening.”

The DMV declined an interview request, and referred Call 12 for Action to a letter that was recently sent to Johnson.

According to the letter, DMV Administrator Walter Craddock agreed to reimburse Johnson $104 for the towing fee.

Craddock also wrote, “the DMV IT department have been checking daily to see if any Robert Johnson has received an action that inadvertently found its way onto your record.”

The case against Robert Johnson – the one who doesn’t have a criminal record – has been dismissed.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.